Authored By: Dexter Horne
There’s this coven of young, professional-types, they call themselves “progressives,” and they’re having a gathering in some far part of rural Kentucky you’ve hardly ever heard of. Anyway, you signed up to be a part of this society back in June when you were at the height of your quarter-life crisis (you’ll remember the 7 cups of coffee a day, the overgrown afro you were trying out, and the job applications for jobs you weren’t going to get covering the dinner table…). Well, they accepted you, and the gathering—the first of five actually—is today. Your ride leaves in one hour. Pack light…
This journey was one destined for Paducah, Kentucky with 25 unfamiliar faces. As the 26th strange face, I came into the New Leaders Council with no ideas for what to expect. And, as I quipped in my little opening monologue, the decision to join this group was one made in the height of crisis. Leading up to this weekend I had been struggling to find my place in society as a young adult. All I had was my story and a desire to do more therein. The beautiful thing about this weekend was that the Life Entrepreneurship module pushed me to realize that this was more than enough. In our first round with the NLC, 26 strangers were given the opportunity to tell their stories to an open and curious audience. And, in the little time we had to sit with each other’s truths, we became a cohort of 26 supportive and mission-driven friends.
Which is good, because before this module, I wasn’t sure if I would be considered “progressive” enough for this progressive boot-camp. In my 24 years, I’ve only dragged myself to one political rally…and mainly went because a girl I liked invited me to go with her. In a speech that I gave to my fraternity one time I called myself a liberal “tree-hugger” but that’s not even true! My car, Prince, leaks gasoline when I got to fill it up (and oil whenever it wants to), so I can’t say I’m a very good steward of the Earth either. I’ve done community service before but can’t say I’ve ever made a drastic difference for the wellbeing of any person (except myself). And, I don’t like Saturday Night Live all that much. So, if being progressive was any of those stereotypical things then I had failed the test twice-over.
Or so I thought. But, in hearing the incredible stories, ambitions, and accomplishments of the strangers I just ran away from home with, I’ve determined that being a “progressive” means so much more than what the word sometimes implies. Progressivism, I now know, is the action we performed this weekend: learning from one another, loving one another, and empowering people who we formerly thought of as strangers in our world. To be progressive is to be this way not just at NLC “boot-camp,” but back home where life is comfortable and even in the midst of personal difficulty or crisis. That’s a lesson that I didn’t know I needed so badly at this stage in my life, and now, all I want is to be progressive. I’m very fortunate to have found my place in this community.
So, a million thanks to you NLC, to our lovely Life Entrepreneurship trainers Zebulon Beilke-McCallum and Jewel Anderson, to our institute organizers Jamie and John, and to the 25 brilliant members of my cohort who have made this weekend life changing. It’s not every day that I willingly leave the stoop of my Lexington apartment and allow complete strangers to take me four hours away from the city. But, I’ve recently learned, that when I do take such uncomfortable leaps of faith, there is sometimes reality-shaking grace to be found at the end of the journey.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.